Court Throws A Wrench Into FCC On 'Net Neutrality'
Specifically, Comcast was cited for blocking legitimate peer-to-peer file sharing using the BitTorrent program.
Critics claimed that Comcast was thwarting competition because most of the files were video — data that could be seen as cutting into Comcast's cable business. Comcast denied the allegations but agreed to change its practices.
Still, it sued — challenging the FCC's authority to regulate Internet access. Tuesday, the judges said the commission had not made the case that it had the authority under law to order Comcast to change its practices.
The FCC has not said how it will respond. It can appeal today's three-judge ruling to the full D.C. Circuit. Or it can, as some critics have suggested, change its approach to regulating the Internet — going back to the 1934 Telecommunications Act and the part of that law that allows the FCC to regulate phone companies.
Tuesday's ruling threatens the National Broadband Plan that the FCC unveiled just last month, because it questions the commission's approach to regulating the Internet as an "information service" and not a telecommunications service, which the FCC has clear legal authority to regulate. That means the commission may not be allowed to redirect money to fund expanded Internet service to Americans who currently do not have it — one of the core recommendations of the National Broadband Plan.
April 6, 2010